Most Anticipated Movies of 2021: From ‘Dune’ and LeBron’s ‘Space Jam’ to Spielberg’s ‘West Side Story’

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Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos Warner Bros/Disney+/Amazon Studios
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos Warner Bros/Disney+/Amazon Studios

Marlow: Well, we’ve discussed our holiday movie and TV recommendations, you’ve provided a comprehensive list of the best TV shows of the year, our entire team’s given picks for the best performances of the year, and I’ve broken down what are the 10 best movies of the year, in my humble opinion. Oh, and we also suffered a bout of temporary insanity whilst going over the very worst movies of the year, with cameos from Tyler Perry’s boom mics, a geyser-shitting Josh Gad, and Mexican Shia LaBeouf.

Kevin: I cannot confirm nor deny how I know this, but that is also the cast of the new season of The Masked Singer.

Marlow: Wouldn’t put it past them. So now, it’s time to look ahead to the movies being released in 2021. When COVID first got bad in March, the major studios pushed many of their tentpoles to 2021; the result is a very packed calendar, with lots and lots of intriguing offerings. I’d like to start things off with Annette, a surrealistic musical (!) from filmmaker Leos Carax (Holy Motors), pairing Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard as a stand-up comic and famous soprano, respectively, whose daughter is possessed of a magical gift. Adam Driver may not like hearing himself sing, but I do!

Kevin: I can’t believe that insane Adam Driver incident was just a year ago. Were we ever that young? Speaking of iconic musical moments in history, I have to say I’m probably most looking forward to the new West Side Story. There is already *so much discourse* surrounding it, with Steven Spielberg directing, reported attempts to right some pretty severe cultural wrongs in the script, and the whole polarizing journey of movie-musicals over the last few years. I’m dying to see how it turns out. I’m also pretty stoked for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights movie. On stage, it’s one of the most joyous musicals I’ve seen. As my unpopular love of the recent The Prom movie proves, I’m more than willing to grade these stage-to-screen adaptations on a curve.

The 10 Best Movies of 2020

Marlow: Ah yes, very here for the Anthony Ramos star-is-born moment that is In the Heights, and am curious how Spielberg will handle West Side Story. Am also strangely reminded of The Simpsons’ spoof character Señor Spielbergo, but alas I digress. How Ansel Elgort will navigate the press tour is a whole separate story. There’s also the Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson film that’s been shooting in and around L.A. during the pandemic, and has Bradley Cooper, Benny Safdie, and Alana Haim (yes, of the music group Haim) in it. All we know thus far is it’s set in the 1970s San Fernando Valley, and involves a high school student who’s also a child actor. But any Paul Thomas Anderson film is cause for celebration.

Kevin: If we’re going to talk about cinematic auteurs like Paul Thomas Anderson, then surely we must bring into the conversation the master of film himself, Bugs Bunny. I don’t trust or believe a human alive who says they’re not looking forward to the Space Jam sequel with LeBron James. Say what you want about needless sequels and cynical revivals. We deserve this one.

Marlow: Maybe Laura Ingraham? But I for one am very much looking forward to it. Love all things LeBron, and think he’s got the charisma to pull it off. (Although please, keep R. Kelly far, far away from this one.) While we’re on the subject of blockbusters, I’m keen to see what the brilliant Chloe Zhao (The Rider, Nomadland) will do on a bigger budget, with trained actors, and generally outside of her comfort zone with Marvel’s The Eternals. It will look stunning, that much is guaranteed. There’s also Guillermo Del Toro’s Nightmare Alley, bringing the Pan’s Labyrinth helmer back into the gothic horror space where he last excelled with the underrated Crimson Peak, and featuring Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett as a master manipulator and psychiatrist squaring off against one another.

Kevin: I had that same sex dream once after accidentally taking too much melatonin.

Marlow: Don’t blame you, as I often think about Bradley Cooper’s appearance on Nip/Tuck—you know, the one where he broke his neck trying to suck his own dick. But again with the digressions! There are few event films I’m more excited for than Dune, the latest from the great Denis Villeneuve, the man behind Incendies, Arrival, Sicario, and Blade Runner 2049. The trailer looks absolutely thrilling. I may need to upgrade my TV set for this one, since all the Warner Bros. films this year will be dropping on HBO Max.

Kevin: I am uncharacteristically looking forward to that one, too. The thing about all this discourse about movie theaters being closed is that I really miss movie theaters. Specifically, I miss the buttery popcorn that’s going to ravage my stomach, the small Coke the size of my bathtub, and the crowd of people all reacting together to a big, bona fide blockbuster. That’s why I’m really excited for Top Gun: Maverick, which I hope to get to see in an actual cinema. It just feels like it could be a great “I’m going to the movies!” movie, which is its own specific breed. In a similar vein, I feel like I need to be in a theater surrounded by people on opening weekend to see Candyman, the horror movie from director Nia DaCosta and producer Jordan Peele.

Marlow: Oh yes, I can’t wait to (hopefully) be vaccinated and in a theater opening weekend for Candyman, gasping and shrieking along with every kill. God, I miss this. There are so many brilliant directors dropping films in 2021 it’s frankly hard to keep track. George Miller is following up his dystopian masterpiece Mad Max: Fury Road with Three Thousand Years of Longing, a fantasy-romance with Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba, while Paul Verhoeven will surely pack plenty of sex and scandal into Benedetta, about a 17th century Italian nun who begins an affair with another nun. I’m also eagerly anticipating After Yang, a sci-fi flick set in a world where families have robotic caretakers, from the Korean-American filmmaker Kogonada, whose previous effort Columbus floored me. This one comes with a decidedly bigger budget, and a more stacked cast in Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, and Columbus’ Haley Lu Richardson.

Kevin: Can’t stop, won’t stop until Haley Lu Richardson becomes a Big Freaking Deal. She’s so good in Columbus, Support the Girls, Unpregnant, Split... pretty much everything she’s in.

Marlow: Couldn’t agree more. And her dramatic recreation of the scene where Mischa Barton flips out on The O.C. was a viral-video highlight this year. Oh, and speaking of Korean directors, the inimitable Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) is back with Decision to Leave, focused on a detective investigating a murder in the countryside who begins falling for his prime suspect.

Kevin: There are a few things I’m more curious about than “excited” for. (Insert dirty joke.) Coming to America is in the ranks of perfect comedies, which makes me nervous for the Coming 2 America sequel, but also rabid to watch Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall at it again. I honestly don’t know what to make of The Many Saints of Newark, the prequel to The Sopranos, but I have high hopes for it. After the exasperating, sexist, and rude discourse surrounding the all-female Ghostbusters reboot, I’m aghast that they’re even doing the Jason Reitman-directed Ghostbusters: Afterlife, returning to the mythology of the original films.

Marlow: I could not care less about this Ghostbusters reboot-of-the-reboot. No idea why it’s happening other than to sell toys and placate whiny fanboys.

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Kevin: And I think all of us are wondering what in the world is up with Spiral, the Saw sequel that’s going to star... Chris Rock?! But if I had to choose one movie that has my eyebrow perched the highest, it’s Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis. Not only is it the film that Tom Hanks contracted coronavirus while shooting, it’s a take on Elvis Presley by the guy who did Moulin Rouge! that also stars Tom Hanks. What is that going to be like?

Marlow: Oh god… after the atrocity that was The Get Down I shudder to think. There are some other celebrated filmmakers with movies coming out this year that we’ve neglected to mention: Joel Coen (of the Coen brothers, sans Ethan) is helming an adaptation of Macbeth starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, while Waltz With Bashir’s Ari Folman is back after a lengthy hiatus with the part-animated Where Is Anne Frank?, chronicling the imaginary friend whom Frank dedicated her diary to.

Kevin: As long as Taika Waititi isn’t playing the imaginary friend...

Marlow: Ha! And Memoria will mark the first English-language feature for Thai master Apichatpong Weerasethakul, with Tilda Swinton as a Scottish traveler to Colombia who starts to experience strange occurrences. I’m very surprised you haven’t mentioned Cruella or Gucci yet, the former featuring Emma Stone as the 101 Dalmatians villain and the latter giving us the combo of (a murderous) Lady Gaga and Ridley Scott!

Kevin: Glenn Close’s pronunciation of “pooh-pees” as Cruella is the closest thing to a religious hymn in this house, and thus I consider anyone else’s attempt at the character to be blasphemy. And clearly I need to update my email address for the “For the Gays” newsletter, because I missed this news of Gaga and Gucci. So fun!

Marlow: Gucci!

Kevin: And shall I wrap this up with the two movies that, if I haven’t exactly been “waiting for” in terms of anticipation, I’ve been waiting for because they were supposed to have come out in the last year? That’s Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, which from posters and trailers appears to approximate a spoof of the Wes Anderson aesthetic so meticulously that it will either be laughable or a masterpiece. And then there’s Bond! So long we’ve had to wait to see Daniel Craig look miserable in a new 007 film. Not Time to Die is coming, and the world will finally feel normal again: We can return to our favorite hobby of dream-casting all the people we want to see be the next Bond.

Marlow: Nature is healing.

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